Tribute to a Tuberculosis Researcher

Megan Murray named Ronda Stryker and William Johnston Professor of Global Health

Paul Farmer, chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at HMS, toasts professorship honoree Megan Murray. Image: Suzanne Camarata

Family, friends and colleagues gathered at the Hotel Commonwealth in Boston to celebrate Harvard Medical School epidemiologist and infectious disease specialist Megan Murray as the inaugural Ronda Stryker and William Johnston Professor of Global Health.

HMS Dean George Q. Daley, who trained as an intern with Murray, said at the April 19 event, “It was obvious to everyone who knew Megan at the time that she was going to make a difference in this world. That’s what we’re here to celebrate tonight.”

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To describe Murray, “You could say ‘cerebral academic, great researcher, well funded,’” said Paul Farmer, Kolokotrones University Professor and chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at HMS.

“You could also say ‘death-defying epidemiologist,’” Farmer continued. “Or you could say ‘warm and accomplished doctor.’ Or you could say ‘a conceptual modeler, a clinician.’ Or you could say ‘a super-mom, a loving spouse, a great sibling.’”

“Then there is the partnership: bringing together HMS, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital and Partners In Health,” Farmer added. “Most of all, it’s the friendships, the human connections, that matter.”

Murray is an internationally renowned expert on tuberculosis. She has conducted field studies and partnered with colleagues in Peru, Rwanda, Haiti and many other countries to better understand epidemic disease, increase research capacity and improve health care delivery in resource-poor settings.

In addition to her new role, Murray is director of research at the Brigham and Women’s Division of Global Health Equity and at Partners In Health. She also leads a team at the Harvard Chan School that conducts multidisciplinary research on multidrug-resistant and extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB and XDR-TB).

Before coming to HMS as a medical student, Murray helped manage a tuberculosis screening program in Thailand for refugees being resettled in other countries. She then earned her MD at HMS in 1990, completed her residency at Mass General and conducted research in tuberculosis epidemiology while earning her MPH and SD at what was then the Harvard School of Public Health.

Murray spoke after a standing ovation. She told a story about how, as an early-career researcher, she was fretting at dinner one night about whether a prestigious journal would accept a study she had submitted, when her son, then 7 or 8 years old, said, “I don’t think you should worry about that paper. I thought your job was to help poor people.”

“It was a real eye-opener,” Murray recalled. “I think I speak for all of us when I say—Paul, George, Ronda and Bill—how grateful we all are that your help allows us to do the kind of great work our children imagine us to do.”

From left: HMS assistant professor Bethany Hedt-Gauthier, Paul Farmer, Ronda Stryker, Megan Murray, George Q. Daley and HMS assistant professor Matthew Bonds. Image: Brown Dog Studio

The professorship was established as part of a $20 million gift from Stryker and Johnston to the HMS Department of Global Health and Social Medicine to advance global health research and education. Stryker is a director of the Stryker Corporation and a member of the HMS Board of Fellows and Advisory Council on Global Health and Service.

Murray was selected in 2016 as the inaugural incumbent.

The gift not only establishes the professorship, said Daley, it further allows Farmer “to carry out his vision of integrating research and teaching with global health delivery. I can’t think of any more valuable contribution to changing this world than bringing those together. We are immensely grateful.”